Also published under the title of Principals of Social Reconstruction, and written in response to the devastation of World War I, Why Men Fight lays out Bertrand Russell's ideas on war, pacifism, reason, impulse, and personal liberty. He argues that the individualistic approach of traditional liberalism has reached its limits and that when individuals live passionately, they will have no desire for war or killing. Conversely, excessive restraint or reason causes us to live unnaturally and with hostility toward those who are unlike ourselves. This formidable work greatly contributed to Russell’s fame as a formidable social critic and anti-war activist.
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in WAR AS AN INSTITUTION IN spite of the fact that most nations at most times, are at peace, war is one of the permanent institutions of all free communities, just as Parliament is one of our permanent institutions in spite of the fact that it is not always sitting. It is war as a permanent institution that I wish to consider: why men tolerate it; why they ought not to tolerate it; what hope there is of their coming not to tolerate it; and how they could abolish it if they wished to do so. War is a conflict between two groups, each of which attempts to kill and maim as many as possible of the other group in order to achieve some object which it desires. The object is generally either power or wealth. It is a pleasure to exercise authority over other men, and it is a pleasure to live on the produce of other men's labor. The victor in war can enjoy more of these delights than the vanquished.But war, like all other natural activities, is not so much prompted by the end which it has in view as by an impulse to the activity itself. Very often men desire an end, not on its own account, but because their nature demands the actions which will lead to the end. And so it is in this case: the ends to be achieved by war appear in prospect far more important than they will appear when they are realized, because war itself is a fulfilment of one side of our nature. If men's actions sprang from desires for what would in fact bring happiness, the purely rational arguments against war would have long ago put an end to it. What makes war difficult to suppress is that it springs from an impulse, rather than from a calculation of the advantages to be derived from war. War differs from theemployment of force by the police through the fact that the actions of the police are ordered by a ne...
Table of Contents
Introduction Preface 1. The Principle of Growth 2. The State 3. War as Institution 4. Property 5. Education 6. Marriage and the Population Question 7. Religion and the Churches 8. What can we Do Index